If you saw the premiere of Cinemax’s new series Outcast, you already know one episode puts Patrick Fugit through the wringer. As Kyle Barnes, he begins the series wasting away alone in a trailer, and ends getting beaten up by a possessed child during his very first exorcism.
It only gets more intense from here, Fugit said in a roundtable interview we were a part of. The show, created by Robert Kirkman and based on his comic books, follows Kyle and Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) as they investigate possessions in their small town, which may reveal more about Kyle’s tragic family history.
How did you learn the southern accent?
It was a cool accent to play. It’s cool. When I went in to audition for it, they had a non regionally specific accent request. They were like, “slight southern” and I was like okay, I’ll just go in and I’ll do like a Texas. I put it on a bit but we went back and forth in the first episode. It was so funny. It was like everything with Kyle’s hair, Kyle’s wardrobe, Kyle’s beard. With the accent and all this different stuff, it was like they would commit and then they’d be like, “No, no, no, no, no, that’s too much accent. We don’t want him to sound like a yokel or a redneck.”
At some point when we got picked up, I watched the first episode and you could tell there’s more accent in one scene, less in another. So from episode two through the rest, I was like, “He’s a southern dude. He lives in the f***ing backwoods of West Virginia. He’s going to sound like a West Virginian, like a coal miner.”
What was it like filming in South Carolina?
It was great. The locations that just exist there are tonally very appropriate for the show. That’s where actual people live so I don’t want to say it’s creepy because people live there, but it is tonally just right for a lot of the stuff that we want to do which is cool.
How do you sympathize with Kyle? When have you felt like an outcast?
You know, I was a weird kid. I grew up in Salt Lake City, UT which is predominantly Mormon kids in my neighborhood where I grew up. There weren’t a lot of kids interested in acting or theater. So I made some very good close friends that all sort of had the same taste as I did. We liked to burn G.I. Joes and watch Monty Python and take stage combat classes and things like that. I grew up doing ballet. My mom was a ballet teacher and she had myself, my siblings, my cousins all enrolled in ballet classes which is one of the best things in my upbringing in terms of my ability to have an elastic mind and learn things quickly and have discipline, that sort of thing.
So you put all that together and you do not belong in Salt Lake City, UT. A lot of kids my age back then were baptized Mormon. I was not. I was baptized Presbyterian but, like, we went to church when grandma was in town and then on Easter Sunday for the food, and Christmas because you do. But other than that, my family’s not particularly traditionally religious. So kids played football and soccer and baseball and I was going to ballet rehearsals, doing theater school in the summer. I was doing British accents with my best friend at school. We were wearing bowler hats. We were f***ing weird kids. But then it turns out there’s a whole city full of weirdos that do the same sh*t.
Since Kyle is learning the ropes of exorcism, did you not have to brush up on researching religion and practices? Could you just learn as you go?
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for forming that question the way that you did. Most people are like, “What exorcism research did you do to prepare for the role?” And I’m like, “Did you watch the f***ing episode? Kyle’s not a reverend.” Kyle is sort of in denial about what happened with his mother. He has no choice really than to put it under the mental illness perspective. So yeah, all of the exorcism stuff was up to Phil, all the cross and holy water and sage and all that.
By the time he realizes staying away may not be keeping his family safe, how will that affect Kyle?
I think that at the beginning of the series, Kyle’s in a pretty negative frame of mind, pretty unproductive frame of mind. He’s sort of subject to the circumstances. In that sort of way, he’s a victim. Once he figures out that though he believes this choice to be his only option, and it has its own sort of dark nobility to it, he’s withholding everything that he wants in life to protect everything that he wants in life. That’s a frustrating place to be from him. I think that once he starts to get more view of the context of the world around him, he’s going to be able to decide that he can have more of a say in what happens in his destiny, that sort of thing.
How physical have those exorcism scenes been, like when the kid tackles you?
It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it. We have a really great stunt coordinator and I have a really great stunt man. My stunt guy is a coordinator himself and they’re very talented guys. I like to train martial arts and I like to be physical just in my personal life. So there are things that, as an actor, I’m capable of doing but not necessarily willing to do. It always turned out, I have this brilliant stuntman who’s a great double for me and makes me look really cool in all these different scenes, but then these directors would come in and they would shift the camera so that you could see my face during the thing. Some actors are really into that. Most of the time it’s because they don’t do the sh*t in real life so it’s this fun chance to go break through a wall or get punched by a 10-year-old, that kind of thing. So he gets in a bar fight with Donnie. It goes well for a second but once he loses the element of surprise…
How has your relationship with Robert influenced how you play Kyle?
So Robert has created a character that I understand, for the most part. So when I initially got the audition scenes and I went in, what I felt I had to contribute and the ideas that I had for Kyle were fairly parallel to Robert’s view of him. That’s a tribute to his writing. That’s also a tribute to the creative team he’s put together. So the character comes off pretty self-explanatory, to me at least. I think that was a big part of why I got the role, because we sort of came in with a great momentum and a similar view of Kyle. That’s always great when you feel like the creator of the character believes that you understand it. And so they trust you to bring it to life. That’s awesome because it creates a lot of opportunity in my mind. You’re able to explore the character in a way that lets you trust the decisions you’re making. He’s also always there to correct course if I get out of hand, which he does constantly.
How close is the show’s Kyle to the comic book’s Kyle?
It’s interesting. I think it’s fairly close. One of the great things is that Robert is working on both projects, so he’s able to decide how close that gets. There’s obviously a lot more texture. There’s a lot more opportunity for us to explore Kyle in the show because we have more tools to tell the stories with. We also have a lot more time so it’s just a bunch of opportunities to explore a lot more of Kyle. I think at first through the first episode and the first issue of the comic, we’re pretty on point, pretty similar. Then things that branch off from there are just exploring more of what Robert has planned for Kyle.
Did you want more information for yourself on his backstory?
Yeah, kind of both. One of the cool things about Kyle that I really like is that he’s very expressive. He doesn’t say a lot but he expresses a lot. He’s not good at lying. He’s not good at hiding how he feels, that sort of thing. So what that does is you’re able to just naturally glean from how he behaves what happened to him before. So it’s like a nice way of storytelling where we have flashbacks in the first couple episodes to sort of explain what happened to Kyle, that sort of thing. But in terms of his more broad upbringing, as a kid through his young adult life, all of that shapes your behavior. One of the great things about Kyle is that the way he behaves sort of tells you all of that without telling you. It’s not expository but it’s just sort of learned appreciation for what’s happened to him.
What is it like having Wrenn Schmidt and Kate Lyn Sheil on set?
Wrenn plays a woman who’s been through quite a lot and has a lot of armor and is a pretty strong person. I think these female influences, it is a male dominated cast but the themes in Kyle’s life have been largely feminine. From what we know about Kyle, his father wasn’t around when he was a kid, right? So he has a single mother influence which is an important thing to know about him. Throughout his adult life, the main positive influences in his life have been female. So it’s Megan, his foster care sister, who is somebody that understands Kyle and looks out for him and she knows that no matter what the local perspective of him is, there’s more to it than what people see.
Because of that, she holds her belief in him throughout all this darkness that’s going on. Then Allison is I think probably the only person outside of Megan that really understands Kyle and sees the goodness in him and sees how bright he can be and what he has to offer particularly to a partnership and to being a father, that sort of thing.
Did you and Wrenn have a chance to establish a sisterly bond?
Yeah, so about seven or eight months before we did this, we auditioned for another series. We went through a lot of chemistry testing and we were getting set. It looked like we were going to get the parts, both of us, and we didn’t which was a bit of a relief. We ended up getting to do this which is a much better setup I think for both of us. So we had bonded already through a whole series of casting sessions for a huge, huge studio. It’s a rigorous process, man. It’s f***ing crazy. So if you ever go through it with other actors, you usually form a good bond. When you see each other around, you’re like, “Oh, yeah. I remember that.”
So we already had that and Wrenn is great. She’s just naturally charismatic and I think that as soon as we saw each other, we had that rapport from before. Then being able to infuse it, I have a really great relationship with my own sister, so you get to put a lot of themes from having a really cool set of siblings back home in my real life. Things that are uniquely brother/sister that we sort of infused in there that Wrenn is just really natural at playing.
Did the other series go with different actors?
Yes, yes. Not as good, not as good. No, it went and it’s very popular now.
Outcast airs Fridays at 10 PM on Cinemax.